>IT Projects – Get It Right or Fix It Later?

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The Wall Street Journal 25 September 2007 reports on a new model being called the “wave of the future”, where IT projects are rolled out “on schedule…even if all the kinks haven’t been worked out” and then fix it later, as problems arise.

The idea of this model is that by rolling out and fixing problems on the fly, you avoid extensive schedule delays and cost-overruns common with IT projects.

Arizona University followed this model in rolling out their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and it was hailed as “highly successful” by a VP at Oracle, even though “there were payroll mistakes that left some [3000!] workers unpaid, underpaid, or overpaid.”

“Oracle hailed it as a model for both universities and corporations to follow.” The strategy is to “implement, adapt, grow.”

This model of fix it later is being used by “Internet companies like Google Inc. These companies label the software they release ‘beta,’ meaning that it is good enough to use, but it isn’t finished. Sometimes they keep it that way for years, using feedback from users to create ever more-refined versions.”

In the fix it later model, you “admit from the start that there will be mistakes; then work through the glitches [after rollout] with users’ help. This is the opposite of the traditional model that says companies “take their time and don’t start using a new computer system until they are convinced almost everything works right.”

Which approach is better?

From a User-centric Enterprise Architecture point of view, we have to balance two competing drivers.

  • One is the importance of meeting user needs and mission requirements, and this means that we don’t delay important IT rollouts unnecessarily, incurring schedule delays, cost overruns, and unmet requirements—This sides with the Fix It Later model.
  • On the other hand, we don’t compromise the mission by taking unnecessary risks and rolling out IT systems that are not tested ready and reliable—This sides with the Get It Right model.

Perhaps, the best IT model is a hybrid that I would call—“Get It Right, On Schedule and Within Budget!”